Civic Space No Longer Under Threat Says Global Civil Society Alliance

civilsociety1 April 2015. Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS has boldly declared that the space for citizens and organisations to speak out, organise and take action is finally expanding and is no longer going to be a world-wide problem. CIVICUS’ analysis is based on several recent positive developments. A number of states have issued synchronised statements to indicate “a new era of engagement” on civic space.

The governments of Uganda and Nigeria in their joint statement released last week termed persecution of the LGBTI community and CSOs promoting their rights as wrong. “This is a clear case of discrimination. Just as we oppose the discrimination of anyone on the basis of ethnicity, sex, place of birth, economic status or religion, we opposed the discrimination of human beings just because they are born gay,” said the joint statement.


Over 70 groups sign NPO Statement concerning FATF R8 BPP consultation process

On March 4, 2015, the FATF Secretariat shared a section of the draft Best Practice Paper on Combating the Abuse of Non-Profit Organisation (BPP), requesting input from non-profit organizations (NPOs) to be submitted before the consultation on March 25 or by April 10. Input is requested on self-regulation and due diligence practices and on limited sections of the BPP, mainly those that target NPOs.

We welcome FATF’s approach to consult the sector. We wish to ensure that there is wide and meaningful consultation as possible on the whole paper, especially grassroots service organizations, which are more difficult to reach.

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Securing a just and sustainable world means challenging the power of the 1%


CIVICUS secretary general Danny Sriskandarajah, together with the leaders of ActionAid (Adriano Campolina), AWID (Lydia Alpízar Durán), Greenpeace (Kumi Naidoo) and Oxfam (Winnie Byanyima), have made a joint call for unity against the 1% ahead of the World Social Forum in Tunis.

The widening gap and imbalance of power between the richest and the rest is warping the rules and policies that affect all of us in society, creating a vicious circle of ever growing and harmful undue influence. Global efforts to end poverty and marginalisation, advance women’s rights, defend the environment, protect human rights, and promote fair and dignified employment are all being undermined as a consequence of the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few. Decisions are being shaped in the narrow interests of the richest, at the expense of the people as a whole. The economic, ecological and human rights crises we face are intertwined and reinforcing. The influence of the 1% has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

Faced with this challenge, we need to go beyond tinkering, and address the structural causes of inequality: we cannot rely on technological fixes – there is no app for this; we cannot rely on the market – unchecked it will worsen inequality and climate change; and we cannot rely on the global elites – left alone they will continue to reinforce the structures and approaches that have led to where we are. As the Rustlers Valley letter to civil society leaders noted, civil society organisations need to be bold in building from below. We need to help strengthen the power of the people to challenge the people with power.


Irish Government should set a higher standard for human rights compliance by business

CIVICUS has submitted recommendations on Ireland's national plan to implement UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. In the submission, CIVICUS argues that civil society should play a central role in implementing and monitoring the plan. CIVICUS also urged Ireland to be proactive in holding companies to account for abuses committed outside its territory. In addition, Ireland must also ensure that effective judicial remedies are available to victims of human rights abuses, while at the same time strengthening regulation of business operations through Irish law.

Download the recommendations here.


11 international organisations call on the UN to address restrictions on civil society in Azerbaijan

joint letter logos

Ahead of the 28th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (UN HRC), 11 human rights organisations are calling upon the intergovernmental body to address Azerbaijan's rapidly deteriorating environment for human rights defenders (HRDs), civil society organisations (CSOs) and independent media.


International Civil Society Week 2016 - Call for expressions of interest for local host in Latin America

Since International Civil Society Week (2014) was such a big success with more than 40 partner-led workshops and more than 630 inspired participants, CIVICUS is excited to continue the conference's legacy by convening the next International Civil Society Week (2016) in Latin America. To begin planning the conference, CIVICUS is seeking a local host partner which can help organise this global affair.


What are citizen actions and initiatives? Why participative democracy at local and global level?

mireille-delmas-martyInterview with Mireille Delmas-Marty, Emeritus Professor at Collège de France

This interview seeks to comment on the innovating potential of local democratic practices presented in the CIVICUS- FACTS Report on “Stories of Innovative Democracy at Local Level: Enhancing Participation, Activism and Social Change Across the World". Ms Delmas-Marty shares her analysis of the current governance system, including at the global level, and her vision of a global citizenship.

Read the interview in English or French


Kenya must address concerns ahead of Human Rights Council review

Joint Brief by CIVICUS and the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP)
21 January 2015 - Ahead of Kenya’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council tomorrow, CIVICUS and the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) urge the government to stop its onslaught against civil society and urgently address backsliding on civic freedoms.


16 NGOs urge international community to pressure Bahrain to drop charges against Nabeel Rajab

NabeelRajab15 January 2015 – This week, 16 human rights organisations have written to 47 States to express grave concern ahead of a 20 January verdict in the trial of Nabeel Rajab, a prominent Bahraini human rights defender.

Additionally, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, The Bahrain Center for Human Rights and The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy sent letters to United Nations officials and Members of Parliament in all 47 States urging them to publicly call on the Government of Bahrain to drop all charges against Rajab.

On 1 October 2014, Rajab reported to the Cyber Crimes Unit of Bahrain’s General Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID) after being summoned for questioning. Following hours of interrogation in relation to a tweet he published while abroad, Rajab was arrested. The tweet read: “Many #Bahrain men who joined #terrorism & #ISIS came from security institutions and those institutions were the first ideological incubator.”


Action 2015

Almost a billion lives hang in the balance at crucial summits in New York & Paris

Famous names back one of the biggest campaigns ever launched

New figures show poverty could increase for the first time in a generation

Action 2015 logoAccording to new research, almost a billion extra people face a life of extreme poverty if leaders duck key decisions on poverty, inequality and climate change due to be taken at two crucial summits in New York and Paris later this year, with billions more continuing to face a life of hardship.


CIVICUS condemns draconian sentencing of two Bahraini activists

5 December 2014: Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, is dismayed over the politically motivated sentences handed down this week to Bahraini human rights activists Maryam al-Khawaja and Zainab al-Khawaja. CIVICUS urges the government of Bahrain to end its relentless campaign to silence dissent in the country and release all human rights defenders imprisoned for exercising their legitimate democratic rights. 


CIVICUS Welcomes the UN Secretary General's Post-2015 report

4 December 2014: In response to the UN Secretary General's highly anticipated post-2015 synthesis report 'The road to dignity by 2030: ending poverty, transforming all lives and protecting the planet', CIVICUS issued the following statement: 


JOINT STATEMENT: Bahrain elections must not be used to cover human rights violations

ElectionsOn 22 November 2014, Bahrain’s citizens will be called to cast their votes for legislative and municipal elections. The elections will be the first to take place since the people of Bahrain took to the streets and squares of the Kingdom in February and March 2011, demanding more openness in the political process and sustained reform to enlarge the space for freedoms and rights enjoyed by Bahraini citizens. Since then, the government of Bahrain has violently repressed any attempt to denounce the human right situation in the country and thwarted any attempt to establish a meaningful and inclusive political dialogue with the opposition. Peaceful protesters, human rights defenders and democracy advocates continue to face extra-judicial detentions, imprisonment, ill treatment and torture in detention centres.


Use the UPR to challenge Egypt's crackdown on CSOs - Joint CSO call

The upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Egypt on 5 November 2014 comes at a critical time for human rights, freedoms and independent Egyptian civil society, including rights defenders and democracy activists. As a group of organizations which have documented and spoken out against human rights violations in Egypt, we are urging your Government to use the UPR as an opportunity to challenge the authorities’ crackdown. 


Read more





CIVICUS ALERT: Hong Kong: Listen to, not attack peaceful demonstrators

hongkong20 October 2014. CIVICUS is deeply worried about attacks on peaceful demonstrators in Hong Kong. Police have ramped up their efforts to disperse pro-democracy demonstrators calling for universal voting rights and an open ballot to elect Hong Kong’s chief executive in 2017.

Over the weekend, from 17- 19 October, more than 200 protesting citizens were injured in police raids on the camps of demonstrators.  At least 30 demonstrators were arrested and face a wide-range of questionable charges ranging from damaging property, disorderly conduct, weapons possession and resisting arrest.  

Even with a large majority of Hong Kong citizens calling for open and transparent elections, the Chinese government is unwilling to implement democratic reforms and is blaming a so called ‘third-force’ for instigating the protests. As the protests move into its fourth week, law enforcement agencies have begun using excessive force to try and silence law abiding citizens. 


Bahrain: Free Nabeel Rajab Immediately and Unconditionally

NabeelRajab9 October 2014. The undersigned more than 100 organisations call for the immediate and unconditional release of detained human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, arrested on 1 October 2014 in Bahrain.

Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), was summoned on 1 October 2014 to attend an investigation at the Criminal Investigation Directorate, specifically the General Directorate of Anti-corruption and Economic and Electronic Security. The investigation session lasted about 45 minutes and focused on two tweets that the authorities claim have offended the Ministry of Interior.
One tweet, from 28 September 2014, said: “many #Bahrain men who joined #terrorism & #ISIS have come from the security institutions and those institutions were the first ideological incubator.”


Hong Kong activists calls on government to "Listen to the voices of its people"

hongkongprotestPro-democracy protests continue in Hong Kong as protesters remain steadfast in their calls for fair and transparent elections of the Chief Executive and for China to stop meddling in the political affairs and electoral processes.  Ahead of planned talks between protesters and government representatives scheduled for Friday 10 October, CIVICUS interviews a human rights activist resident in Hong Kong who provides an insider’s view of the dynamics of the protests and response of the authorities. The activist chooses to remain anonymous because of the delicate state of human rights and out of concern for possible reprisals from the Chinese authorities.

1)    What triggered the recent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and what at the key demands of the protesters?

The Hong Kong “Occupy Central” campaign is a Hong Kong people’s movement which calls for transparent and fair elections of the Chief Executive through universal suffrage without any censorship of candidates in 2017. On August 31, 2014, however, the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress of China placed restrictions to deprive democrats from being nominated in an open and transparent manner for the Chief Executive position when elections are held in 2017.


Call for proposals: Application for implementing partner for civil society assessment in South Africa


The legal, regulatory, and policy environment in which Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) operate is key to their ability to register, operate, access resources, and effectively engage in advocacy, all of which are key to civil society’s ability to flourish and be successful. Moreover, the laws and regulations that govern CSOs and the ways in which they are implemented, which form part of civil society’s enabling environment, potentially shape a host of other significant factors as well: a CSO’s ability to communicate and associate with others, to engage in peaceful assembly, to seek tax exemptions, to engage in philanthropy, and to access information. All of these factors, as well as the relationship between CSOs and their government, help to define the nature of civil society’s enabling environment within a particular country. Importantly, these factors, when taken together, significantly affect the public’s receptivity, the lifeblood of a well-functioning civil society, to the important work performed by CSOs.


Open letter from the Human Rights Caucus to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

"We write to you as the Post-2015 Human Rights Caucus, a cross-constituency coalition of development, environment, trade union, feminist and human rights organizations worldwide. We welcome your efforts to involve civil society in the important discussions about the future development agenda. This is a generational opportunity to ensure that the international community is progressing towards a sustainable future for people and planet, and we encourage your offices to ensure that people’s voices are heard in these deliberations..." Read more

HR Caucus


Submission on Sri Lanka to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG)

commonwealth-ministerial-action-groupCIVICUS and a number of national and international civil society groups have urged the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group to ensure that the Government of Sri Lanka upholds Commonwealth values on democracy and human rights.

Their joint submission makes a number of recommendations and highlights recent cases of attacks on human rights defenders, encroachments on civil society space, threats to journalists, and pervasive military control over the civilian administration in areas inhabited by the Tamil minority.

Read the full submission




Syria: Free Prominent Rights Defenders


Verdict Scheduled in Charges Before Anti-Terrorism CourtSyrian HRDs

Geneva, September 5, 2014. The Syrian government should immediately and unconditionally release the arbitrarily detained human rights defender Mazen Darwish and his colleagues Hani Al-Zitani and Hussein Ghareer, 79 organizations said today. The Syrian Anti-Terrorism Court is expected to issue its verdict on September 24, 2014 in their trial for “publicizing terrorist acts.”

Darwish is the director of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM). Syrian Air Force Intelligence arrested the three men and other colleagues during a raid on the group’s office, in Damascus on February 16, 2012. The three men have been on trial before the Anti-Terrorism Court on charges of “publicizing terrorist acts” under article 8 of the country’s 2012 Anti-Terrorism Law. The charges are based on their peaceful activities that include monitoring and publishing information about human rights abuses in Syria.


Joint civil society letter on Bahraini Human Rights Defenders

The representatives of international human rights organisations write to urge the Bahrain government to comply with its international treaty obligations to provide victims of torture with physical and psychological rehabilitation. In particular, they urge the Bahrain government to allow and facilitate an independent assessment of the therapeutic needs of all persons who were mistreated during their detention by the Bahraini authorities, as confirmed by the findings of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI).

Read the full letter


CIVICUS Brief - Thailand: End crackdown on civil society and restore democratic freedoms

20 August 2014. Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, strongly condemns the continued denial of basic democratic freedoms by the military junta in Thailand and calls on the military to immediately remove unwarranted restrictions on civil society and the independent media. 

Since the May 22 coup, the military junta led by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has overseen the wholesale suspension of fundamental civil liberties in an attempt to stifle criticism and popular protest. The NCPO’s continued invocation of overbroad legislation to criminalize dissent represents a severe breach of international human rights law.  

Judicial persecution of human rights defenders

Despite firm constitutional protections against arbitrary detention, the NCPO has invoked restrictive legislation to endow the military with excessive powers to imprison human rights defenders and peaceful dissidents. 

Under the 1949 Martial Law Act brought into force two days prior to the coup, the military is permitted to arrest and detain individuals without charge for up to seven days. Moreover, under an order issued by the NCPO on 25 May, military courts are authorized to oversee a number of crimes which previously fell under the jurisdiction of civilian courts. These include offences under the Criminal Code and those related to national security and sedition. 


CIVICUS Alert: CIVICUS condemns crackdown on peaceful protests in Missouri, USA

14 August 2014. The use of excessive force and arbitrary arrest of peaceful demonstrators and journalists in Ferguson, Missouri, USA, represents a severe breach of the right to freedom of assembly says global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

“The authorities have a responsibility to protect and facilitate the right to peaceful assembly,” said Tor Hodenfield, Policy and Advocacy Officer at CIVICUS. “However, police in Ferguson have actively sought to undermine the ongoing protests in an apparent attempt to quash independent dissent.” 

Over 50 people have been arrested and numerous others injured since peaceful demonstrations began on 11 August in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of the state capital, St. Louis. The protests stem from the fatal shooting of an unarmed African- American teenager, Michael Brown, by police officers on Saturday, 10 August. Protestors are calling for greater accountability for the shooting, including the immediate disclosure of the identity of the officer responsible. 


CIVICUS ALERT: Sri Lanka: Worrying developments for Civil Society

31 July 2014 – Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS is shocked over moves in Sri Lanka to stifle civil society and muzzle democratic freedoms, particularly the rights to freely express, associate and assemble.

“With the political opposition effectively marginalised in Sri Lanka, civil society is thus the only alternative source of objective analysis of government policies and practices. But activists and independent civil society organisations are being targeted on an unprecedented scale,” said David Kode, Policy and Research Officer at CIVICUS.

On 1 July 2014, the National Secretariat for NGOs which operates under the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development issued a circular calling on NGOs to desist from “conducting press conferences, workshops, trainings for journalists and dissemination of press releases.” Indicative of Sri Lankan authorities’ intolerance of dissent, these activities are now being regarded as “unauthorised” and “beyond the mandate” of NGOs.


41 African and international CSOs call on the Ethiopian Prime Minister to release detained journalists and Zone 9 bloggers

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn 

Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia 

Office of the Prime Minister 

P.O. Box 1031 

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 

24 July 2014 

Re: Detained Journalists and Bloggers 

Dear Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, 

We write to you to express our grave concern regarding the terrorism charges laid against seven bloggers associated with the “Zone 9” website and three independent journalists in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights—which both expressly protect the right to freedom of expression. We therefore urge your government to fulfill its obligations under international law and release all individuals who have been arbitrarily detained in violation of their fundamental rights. 

As you may be aware, six of the bloggers (Zelalem Kibret, Atnaf Berahane, Natnael Feleke, Mahlet Fantahun, Befeqadu Hailu, and Abel Wabela) and the three journalists (Tesfalem Waldyes, Asmamaw Hailegeorgis, and Edom Kassaye) were arrested in late April, shortly after it was announced that the Zone 9 website would resume its activities after suspending operations because of increasing harassment and surveillance. All nine detainees were subsequently held for nearly three months before any specific allegations were presented or formal charges filed against them. Most concerning, however, are reports that some of the detainees have complained of serious mistreatment by investigators and that defense lawyers and their clients have been excluded from some of the proceedings. 


29 NGOs submit letter to newly appointed Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, urging a change of policy on Bahrain

16 July 2014, London – A group of 29 NGOs have sent a letter to the newly appointed Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Phillip Hammond, urging a shift in UK policy towards the situation in Bahrain. 

The letter calls for a ‘fresh’ approach to be adopted by the new Foreign Secretary in light of the FCO’s failure to heed a Foreign Affairs Committee recommendation that the U.K. should “designate Bahrain as a country of concern” in its 2014 human rights report if the situation had not improved by the start of this year. Despite this recommendation, the FCO subsequently failed to acknowledge Bahrain as a country of concern, and instead, listed it as a “case study” praising specific areas of reform.

The letter highlights the inconsistencies in UK policy towards Bahrain in recent years, specifically referencing recent statements made by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, who claimed that the human rights situation in Bahrain is a situation of “grave concern” and that recommendations made by the 2011 report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry are in a “state of non-implementation”. 


A Call for Human Rights Concerns to be reflected in the Fortaleza Declaration of Sixth BRICS Summit

We, the undersigned civil society organizations from Brazil, India and South Africa, call upon our governments to ensure that the Fortaleza Declaration addresses the following issues: 1) the Syrian crisis and the urgent need to secure greater humanitarian aid; 2) the Implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT); and 3) the role of civil society in BRICS agenda setting.  We support and encourage our countries’ collective commitment to promote and protect human rights worldwide, including at the upcoming Sixth BRICS Summit to be held in Brazil from 14 to 16 July 2014.


Read the full letter


CCHR and CIVICUS condemn the Cambodian government’s rejection of key recommendations during its 2nd Universal Periodic Review

Today, 26 June 2014, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (“CCHR”) and CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance,  condemn the Royal Government of Cambodia’s (the “RGC”) decision to reject key recommendations on the human rights situation in the Kingdom of Cambodia put forward  by United Nations member States during Cambodia’s 2nd Universal Periodic Review (the “UPR”).

While CCHR and CIVICUS commend the RGC for its acceptance of the majority of the recommendations, they are seriously disappointed by its refusal to accept recommendations mainly relating to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, which are fundamental in improving the current human rights situation. 

The UPR is a process by which all UN member States undergo a review of their human rights record.  The UPR occurs every four years, and Cambodia completed its second review at the beginning of this year.  A total of 206 recommendations were made to the Cambodian delegation. 164 enjoy the support of the RGC. However, the RGC today chose to take note of 38 recommendations, meaning it has not committed to implementing them, and to reject four.


Danny Sriskandarajah connects civil society, governance and social change in Africa

Danny Sriskandarajah , Director-General of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, joins Breaking Views with UNICEF to talk about the role of civil society in Africa, social engagement, social challenges and the impact communities can have in the world.


Webinar: How to influence the post-2015 development agenda


Introducing two new practical guides for good advocacy

Thursday 12 June 2014
Webinar [in English]: 10am (EDT- New York) / 3pm (BST- London)          
Webinar [in French]: 10am (CEST- Central Europe) / 10am (CAT- Central Africa)

Thursday 19 June 2014
Webinar [in Spanish]: 4pm UTC+2

SD2015 has produced an Advocacy Toolkit and Media Guide for civil society and other stakeholder organisations, coalitions and individuals that want to influence the post-2015 development agenda, including the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Representatives from CIVICUS and Stakeholder Forum will introduce these two new publications and walk you through how to use this information and the guiding activities to develop an effective advocacy strategy that will help you and your organisation shape the post-2015 agenda.

There will be time at the end of the webinar for Q&A and sharing of post-2015 advocacy experiences, with reflections on approaches that have worked well and practical advice on lessons learnt from SD2015 partners and networks.


CIVICUS Alert - Burundi : Release human rights defender immediately

pierre claver mbonimpa

26 May 2014. Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS and the Ligue des Droits de la Personne dans la Region des Grand Lacs (LDGL) urge Burundian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release human rights defender Pierre Claver Mbonimpa.  He was arrested on 15 May 2014 on baseless charges of endangering state security following an interview on Burundian radio station, Radio Publique Africaine (RPA) on 6 May.

During the interview Pierre Mbonimpa noted that youth from Burundi were being armed and sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for military training and expressed concerns over the distribution of weapons to young people in Burundi.  He was initially summoned by the police on 7 May and interrogated about the statements he made over radio. He was summoned again on 12 May and on 14 May. Pierre Mbonimpa was later charged with inciting public disobedience and endangering state security under Article 579 of the country’s constitution. He is currently being held at Mpimba Prison in Bujumbura. 


University of Waterloo Signs Internship Agreement with CIVICUS

The University of Waterloo is pleased to announce that it has signed a five-year partnership agreement with CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance. The agreement establishes an annual internship with CIVICUS for students enrolled in the Masters of Arts in Global Governance (MAGG) program, based at the Balsillie School of International Affairs (BSIA).

“We are thrilled to be partnering with such a world-class international non-governmental organization,” said Dr. John Ravenhill, Director of the Balsillie School of International Affairs. “We are very excited that our students are going to be able to assist CIVICUS in carrying out the vital work that it does to create space for citizen participation in global governance.”

Students in the MAGG program are required to do a four-month internship. Under the terms of this agreement, the program will select one student each year to intern at CIVICUS’s headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa.


Belarus Must Play Fair, in Sports and Beyond

Fair play

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s authoritarian rule in Belarus, the “last dictatorship of Europe.” As if to celebrate the occasion, and despite multiple urgent calls from around the world, the International Ice Hockey Federation granted Lukashenka’s wish to host the 2014 Ice Hockey World Championship (IHWC) in Belarus this May. Hockey is his favorite sport. 

Read more


Oral Statement by CIVICUS to the 55th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

"CIVICUS, an international movement dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world, expresses its appreciation for this opportunity to address the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights during the 55th Ordinary Session."



Read the full statement here.


A word from the board chair, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda1Dear CIVICUS friends,

As Chair of the CIVICUS Board of Directors, I am delighted to share with you some results of our Board of Directors meeting held in Istanbul, Turkey at the end of March, 2014.   I congratulate CIVICUS voting members for electing a truly diverse, international and inter-generational Board. This diversity will benefit us all at CIVICUS.

As the Board we adopted key priorities for our term in office, which include fundraising, strategic engagement and sustainable financial growth. We also adopted new ways of work focusing on a Board that provides thought leadership as we maintain our core responsibility of oversight and policy advice to the organisation.

The Board received a management report, and we are encouraged by the strategic approaches and positioning of CIVICUS by the Secretary-General, Danny Sriskandarajah, and the management team. The Board has given their full support for International Civil Society Week 2014, complete with CIVICUS World and Youth Assemblies. We are excited to host this event in Johannesburg, South Africa, with local and international CIVICUS partners. We therefore encourage our members, partners and friends to actively engage with CIVICUS through these exciting opportunities. CIVICUS is already exploring the next location for International Civil Society Week, planned for early 2016.


Looking forward to Mexico City

I am looking forward to joining some 100-odd civil society colleagues in Mexico City next week to attend the first High Level Meeting of the Global Partnership on Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC). The GPEDC grew out of a series of meetings on improving aid effectiveness that culminated in Busan, South Korea in 2011. Next week’s meeting will attract some 1300 senior officials from 161 Governments and 54 organisations who will review progress on the commitments made in Busan and how to make sure that the post-2015 global development agenda is implemented as effectively as possible. 

Will this meeting really mark a major milestone in the global fight against poverty’ as promised on the GPEDC website? Or will it be just another minor stop on the road to the post-2015 sustainable development agenda? For many of us in civil society, there are three areas where the GPEDC could make a big impact. If next week’s meeting could show tangible progress on these, I for one would leave happy.

Show us the progress

As I have argued elsewhere, we need a paradigm shift in the way that development is delivered, moving from a supply-side driven model built around official development assistance (ODA) to one that reflects the changing geopolitical and economic realities, is shaped not only by donors, and involves flows beyond aid. By signalling a commitment to mutual accountability, transparency, and better institutions, and by going beyond donor governments (other donors, civil society, foundations, business), the GPEDC has the potential to drive this paradigm shift.


CIVICUS and HURISA urge South Africa and SADC to protect Swazi activists

CIVICUS and the Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA) express shock at the continued harassment and re-arrest of Swazi journalist Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko. 


Third Anniversary of Arrest: Calls for the Release of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja

The undersigned civil society organizations express their serious concern for the health and well-being of imprisoned Bahraini human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja. Mr. Al-Khawaja was arrested three years ago today, on 9 April 2011, and continues to require medical attention for injuries sustained during his arrest and subsequent torture. 


Why restricting foreign funding of NGOs is wrongheaded

Danny By Danny Sriskandarajah

There is a new weapon of choice for governments that want to undermine bits of civil society that irritate them - restricting funding from foreign sources. By making it more difficult for human rights organizations or public watchdogs to access money from abroad, these governments hope to curb dissent and reduce accountability. These measures not only go against established international conventions and commitments, but what governments do not seem to realize is that the measures will not work.

There has been a plethora of funding restrictions recently, so much so that the UN’s Special Rapporteur on freedoms of assembly and association devoted his report to the subject last year. Colleagues at the International Center for Not-for-profit Law have documented more than 20 attempts to restrict foreign funding in the last two years.

For example, in Bangladesh advance government approval is needed before a non-governmental organization (NGO) can access foreign funding, in Ethiopia and Israel there are limits on the areas foreign-funded NGOs can work in; in Zimbabwe foreign-funded NGOs cannot work on ‘governance’ issues, and in Russia the government has tried to stigmatize these NGOs (requiring them to register using a Russian word that means ‘spy’).

Such measures may play well politically by reinforcing the idea of undue foreign (Western) interference in domestic affairs, but they are based on a set of flawed assumptions about how civil society works. They will only make a marginal difference in curbing dissent, and will have disproportionate effects on civil society. They may even end up back-firing completely.


CIVICUS endorses call to free Syrian Human Rights Defenders

Geneva, Switzerland – The government of Syria should immediately and unconditionally release the arbitrarily detained human rights defender Mazen Darwish and his colleagues Hani Al-Zitani and Hussein Ghareer, 61 human rights organizations said today. The United Nations Security Council demanded the release of all arbitrarily detained people in Syria on February 22, 2014.

Read the full statement here


Raising awareness on Syria

with SyriaCIVICUS is supporting a new campaign  to raise awareness about the ongoing crisis in Syria. You can see who else is part of the campaign by visiting

The 15th March marks the third year anniversary of the Syria crisis - a crisis that has been labelled one of the worst of our generation; half the country has been forced to flee their homes; over 100,000 people have been killed.

In the run up to the anniversary, Syrian groups, prominent international NGOs, former world leaders and celebrities around the world are holding vigils in over 30 countries, turning global landmarks into symbols of hope, from the Eiffel Tower to Za’atari camp, from Trafalgar Square to Dadaab camp in Kenya. The artist, Banksy, has donated the use of his iconic image of the girl with the red balloon as a motif for the campaign.

The campaign calls on everyone to redouble efforts to raise awareness about the crisis. As part of the #WithSyria campaign, we are asking world leaders to make every effort to ensure the people of Syria do not lose another year to bloodshed and suffering. This means pressing all parties to the conflict and all those with influence to:

  1. Stop the bloodshed: This means ending attacks on civilians, including schools and hospitals. It means respect for the laws of war and the rights of those affected by the conflict.
  2.  Ensure all those in need can access life-saving assistance.
  3. Commit to inclusive peace talks: This means making sure the voices of those affected – including civil society and women – can be heard and heeded.

Please lend your support to the #WithSyria campaign by:

  • Adding your voice to thousands of others to help #WithSyria trend the week of 10th March.  Anytime from 10th  March please get as many people as possible to tweet: “Don't let the people of Syria lose another year to bloodshed and suffering. I stand #WithSyria. Retweet if you do.”You can also add your Facebook or Twitter profile picture to the Faces for Syria thunderclap. Find out how here.  

  •  Watching and sharing the beautiful animation of Banksy’s girl with the red balloon find hope with Syria. The video will go live on 12th March at

  • Organising a vigil around the 13th March, so you can join with people around the world in saying, with Syria, there is always hope. This can be a simple candle-lit vigil of one person or as many as you can get together, bringing in balloons to copy Banksy’s image. There is further information regarding organising a vigil here

Thank you!


Being Bold: New Initiatives Post-2015

Danny NEW highresBy Danny Sriskandarajah

Last weekend, I took part in two back-to-back meetings in Istanbul on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. It was an intense and, sometimes, tense few days, but I have a feeling that the two meetings mark the start of two initiatives that have the potential to transform the role of civil society in the post-2015 process.

The first was a convening of some 50 people representing more than 30 platforms and organisations that work on post-2015 issues, and was aimed at identifying what scope there was for a new global campaign over the next 18 months. We had a great mix of participants, ranging from large networks such as Climate Action Network International (CAN) and Global Call to Action on Poverty (GCAP) to individuals like Amina Mohammed (the UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor on these issues) and Richard Curtis (the acclaimed filmmaker who has been working on ideas for a new campaign).

There has been talk of a new global campaign on post-2015 for a while, including at meetings like the ones we co-hosted in Johannesburg in November 2013, but nothing firm had materialised. One of the reasons was that there had yet to be a broad-based conversation involving a range of civil society actors, including those from the worlds of development, climate and gender justice. This is why the Istanbul meeting was so important.

In Istanbul, there was consensus that civil society needed to come together urgently to ensure that the two processes culminating in 2015 (the climate negotiations and the agreement of a new set of development goals) deliver an ambitious and transformative set of outcomes that will serve the interests of people and planet. We agreed to build a genuinely global movement through which people would put pressure on our leaders to deliver; to be radical and radically inclusive. We agreed to build a light-touch governance structure that would help coordinate and amplify existing and planned initiatives, without centralised command-and-control functions. And we agreed to produce campaign materials that would be powerful enough to capture the imagination of billions of people around the world.


A call for observance of human rights, justice and peace in Venezuela

Member organizations of Foro por la Vida, together with other Venezuelan organizations, have made the following statement in light of events in the country.

We, the undersigned organizations, given the worsening of the Venezuelan situation resulting from violence, misinformation, arbitrary detentions and other major violations of human rights that have occurred in the month of February 2014 make a call for urgent action in support of the observance of human rights, justice and peace in Venezuela.

The events taking place in Venezuela showcase the deterioration of public institutions to effectively arbitrate the diversity of political positions that exist in the country. In light of this situation it is important that various sectors of the national and international community take a stand to challenge human rights violations, calling for an independent investigation, requesting the cessation of repression and the opening of genuine dialogue.

For the full statement: in English or in Spanish 



Joint written statement on civil society space to the UN Human Rights Council

CIVICUS and the World Movement for Democracy (WMD) have submitted a written statement to the 25th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (3 – 28 March 2014). The statement examines the rising restrictions on the activities of civil society across  the world, including: i) worsening policy and legal environment for civil society; ii) dissolution of civil society groups without justification; and iii) judicial persecution of civil society members. The statement further provides a number of key recommendations to be considered by the UNHRC to ensure the creation of a safe and enabling environment for civil society.

Rising Restrictions on Civil Society which require the Human Rights Council’s further attention


Ethiopia’s EITI Process Needs Larger Role for Civil Society

February 14, 2014

Ethiopia’s renewed push for admission to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) should be closely scrutinized due to the limited role Ethiopia has granted to civil society and a hostile legal environment that minimizes meaningful debate, Freedom House and Civicus World Alliance for Citizen Participation said.

Freedom House and Civicus urge the government of Ethiopia to live up to the commitment made in its 2013 EITI application to “improve the legal environment” for the citizen-based watchdog role in the process. We also call on the EITI International board to ensure that Ethiopian civil society organizations are granted free, full and effective participation, as required by the EITI standard.

“Free, meaningful participation by Ethiopia’s civil society is impossible in the current environment,” said Vukasin Petrovic, director of Africa Programs at Freedom House. ‘The Ethiopian government should use the EITI application process to identify and complete concrete action toward making substantive changes to the tightly restricted role of citizens’ groups.”


Call for Inputs to the State of Civil Society Report 2014

CIVICUS is currently in the process of developing the content for our flagship State of Civil Society Report. With humanity poised at a critical juncture due to multiple integrated economic, social, political, environmental and humanitarian crises, and as conversations take place around the world on a new paradigm for sustainable development, our 2014 report will focus on the broad theme of citizens’ transforming the global governance arena. 

The 2014 report slated for release in the second quarter of the year will be presented through a series of interactive webpages and downloadable sections, along with an engaging and accessible summary which will be widely disseminated.  The report will also include key findings from CIVICUS’ inaugural civil society-intergovernmental scorecard, which assesses the depth and quality of engagement of intergovernmental organisations with civil society organisations. We invite you to participate in our survey here.

CIVICUS is interested in hearing from you. Please share with us three key reforms that you believe are critical to democratise global governance. Write to us at   We also welcome your suggestions on possible topics or issues to include in the report.


Mauricio Alarcón-Salvador of Fundamedios speaks to CIVICUS about civil society conditions in Ecuador

Mauricio Alarcon Salvador Programme Director FundamediosAs part of our regular interview series, CIVICUS speaks to Mauricio Alarcón-Salvador about threats to human rights activists and NGOs in Ecuador. Mauricio is a lawyer and human rights defender who focuses on citizen participation and the rights of people with disabilities. He is the Programme Director of Fundamedios, a position he has held since 2009. Fundamedios or the Andean Foundation for the observation and study of the media is a civil society organisation which works to defend and promote freedom of the press, speech and association in Ecuador.

Lately, a lot of media attention has been focused on restrictions on democratic freedoms in Ecuador. Can you tell us more about the situation there?

In the recent years, there has been a consistent deterioration in the respect of fundamental freedoms in Ecuador.  Freedom of expression is mostly affected because of increasing threats to and attacks on journalists, media agencies and ordinary citizens who are critical of the government.  Journalists are increasingly persecuted, radio and TV Stations have been shut down and citizens arrested for allegedly “offending the President.” The government is equally trampling on the rights of association and the right to protest.  Civil society activists and human rights defenders have been subjected to judicial persecution and jailed for simply participating in public protests. As we speak, there are more than 200 leaders of social movements and activists who are being persecuted for simply expressing their rights to protest and associate. Most of those who are persecuted are charged with threatening state security.


CIVICUS announces the 8 partners selected to conduct local multi-stakeholders dialogues

French | Spanish    

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is pleased to announce the selection of 8 convening partners to conduct local multi-stakeholder dialogues between January and June 2014, as part of its action-based research project, the New Social Contract. 

Through the project, CIVICUS seeks to find new ways of partnership, engagement and commitment between different stakeholders to address collective challenges at the local level and together set up collective goals. CIVICUS proposes a methodology for these multi-stakeholder engagements and has been funding a series of local conversations about collaboration and systems that underpin the relationship between different forces in society, also known as social contracts. 

The Call for Expressions of Interest to organise locally-initiated multi-stakeholders dialogues was officially launched on 20 September 2013, and was well received as 948 applications from 120 countries were submitted. Between October and December 2013, the proposals were moderated on account of the relevance of the proposed challenge, the candidates’ willingness to address it and their motivations to establish a local multi-stakeholder platform.


UN Special Rapporteur Urges Rwanda to Lift Restrictions on Peaceful Assembly and Association

Global Update by the Civic Space Initiative Maina Kiai Rwanda

As he concluded his official visit to Rwanda, the UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association Maina Kiai urged the government of Rwanda to lift restrictions on peaceful assembly and association.

The purpose of the UNSR’s visit was to provide observations and recommendations for how Rwanda can better respect, promote, and implement international human rights law and standards regarding the freedoms of assembly and association. He met with government officials as well as leaders from national and international non-governmental organizations. Rwanda is the first African country to have invited the UNSR since the establishment of the mandate in 2010.

The UNSR commended the country’s remarkable economic progress since the 1994 genocide. However, he expressed concerns that the government generally does not allow peaceful protest, and asserted that “peaceful assemblies should not be feared. Rather, they should be encouraged. There is value in expressing disagreement and differences peacefully and publically.”

Mr. Kiai also noted restrictions on civil society organizations (CSOs) and political parties, including barriers to registration, limits on CSO activities, excessive government interference, and a lack of space for dissenting views. He urged Rwanda to uphold its international legal obligations regarding freedom of association, reiterating that “it is crucial that individuals exercising the right to associate…are able to operate freely and without fear.”

The Civic Space Initiative (CSI) supports the UNSR mandate by providing technical expertise and human resource support. The CSI also works to ensure meaningful participation of civil society actors in the work of the UNSR. Members of the CSI are ARTICLE 19, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, and the World Movement for Democracy.

Relevant Links:

Full End-of-Mission Statement by the Special Rapporteur





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